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Persecution of the Scottish Covenanters

Lisa Barry: Christians around the world have always faced opposition, but that?s not the sort of thing that makes headlines very often. Today on Gateway to Joy, Elisabeth Elliot opens our eyes to some of the persecution that believers have faced in the past. I want to alert you parents to the fact that there are some graphic descriptions of violence on today?s program that may not be suitable for young children. Now let?s begin with today?s program. Here?s Elisabeth.

Elisabeth Elliot: "You are loved with an everlasting love." That?s what the Bible says. "And underneath are the everlasting arms." This is your friend Elisabeth Elliot, talking with you again today about a mighty fortress. You know that wonderful hymn, "A mighty fortress is our God, a bulwark never failing. Our Helper, He, amid the flood of mortal ills prevailing."

I?m going to read to you from a little book about the Scottish Covenanters, who were persecuted by Anglicans in 1618 when the king of England and Scotland?it was one king for England and Scotland?tried to limit illegal and secret meetings for worship, other than those of the established church. This is just another sad story in the whole story of broken churches and different kinds of rules that have been made against Christians. It was in 1618 that the Scottish Covenanters were persecuted by the Anglicans. They were not allowed to have what were called "conventicals," illegal and secret meetings for worship, other than those of the established church.

You remember that Martin Luther was the leader of the German Reformation in 1483. Not very long ago, I heard that someone has counted up that there have been 23,000 splits among Protestants, not to mention the differences between Roman Catholics and Greek Orthodox and Russian Orthodox and Ethiopian Orthodox, etc., etc., and when all read the same Bible.

I think of Jesus? prayer in John 17. He prayed to His Father that they all may be one. Well, we don?t see that happening, do we? Yet people who love God and have been willing to suffer for their faith have been in all generations. I?m told that now there have been more martyrs for the faith in the last 50 years of Christian history than in all the martyrdoms put together before that time. In fact, we were just in a church yesterday where they prayed for the 400 people who would be killed today because of their trust in God. People all over the world.

But this book is called FAIR SUNSHINE. It?s character studies of the Scottish Covenanters of the 1600?s. "From whom did the early American slaves, wrested from Africa, hear the Gospel? No doubt from Puritans and Quakers, but such were not fellow slaves. The former lived more in their own settlements, and the latter, to their everlasting credit, would not hold slaves. Whosoever got to a Quaker settlement was at once a free man.

To the West Indies, the Barbados and South Carolina, many Covenanters were sent as slaves." Now this was news to me. I didn?t know that Scottish Covenanters had been enslaved and sent to the West Indies and Barbados and South Carolina. "The accounts of their tragic hell ships make painful reading. Hundreds of these godly men and women, shipped to be sold as slaves, perished in those terrible conditions through disease, and in fearful storms were drowned miserably, battened under hatches.

From those who reached the plantations, black slaves heard the Gospel. And thus, white-skinned slave and black rejoiced in one common Lord." Amazing. I was just so amazed to read that.

Then a story about a man named John Brown. "He died on a May morning. The next day, beneath the early summer sun, two ladies of the Covenant, Margaret Wilson and Margaret McLoughlin, were wrestling in their cruel, heavy swellings of Jordan. They were summer and winter in the glorious cause." In other words, one was old and one was young. "It was Margaret of the flaxen hair and Margaret of the gray. From the darksome prison house, the soldiers took them to the banks of the Blednock Birne, which fills with soulway from the sea when the swift-running tide comes in. Two long, wooden stakes had been fixed deeply in the bed of the stream. The farther out one, nearer the oncoming waves, was for Mother Margaret; and the other, nearer to the land, was for Margaret the Maid."

It may have been a little difficult for some of you to follow all that I?m saying here, but just remember this?an older Margaret and a younger Margaret, and they were tied to wooden stakes in the stream.

The writer goes on to say, "We never read of any word the old saint spoke. It appears that, sick at heart and disappointed with madly cruel humanity, she turned to the unending communion with the Lord. They tied her roughly fast to her leafless but fruitful tree, that stake that was put in the stream. So came the hungry waters up and up, every wave splashing death, until she was choking in their cold, cold grasp. As she struggled before she became a poor, limp thing, lying in the swirling flood, they said to young Margaret, ?What do you think of her now?? ?Think?? said Margaret. ?I see Christ wrestling there,? said she. ?Think ye that we are sufferers? No. It is Christ in us, for He sends none a warfare at their own charges.?"

In other words, when you and I suffer, Christ suffers with us. Christ was tied to those two stakes with the two Margarets. "The waters were now around her, and she began to sing a plaintive melody she had often sung among the hills when the fellowship of the hunted worshiped God. In it, the young heart communed with the Most High. It was Psalm 25, from the seventh verse. ?My sins and faults of youth do Thou, O Lord, forget. After Thy mercy, think on me; and for Thy goodness great.?

To the Covenanter, the Bible was the visible promise of the new Jerusalem, that great city, the holy Jerusalem, descending out of heaven from God, and having the glory of God. Her light was like unto a stone most precious. Her treasure with her, Margaret Wilson opened it up for the last time to see the precious jewels there. She read aloud from the eighth chapter of Romans, in full assurance of faith of the glory soon to be." So of course, both of these women were drowned because of their faithfulness to Jesus Christ.

Then there was a man named Mitchell. He said, "My lords, not knowing that I shall escape this torture with my life, therefore, I beseech you to remember what Solomon saith: ?He who showeth no mercy shall have judgment without mercy.? During this time, the boot, with Mitchell?s leg in it, had been set on the chest. Now the boot was a terrible instrument of torture. It was a steel boot that was put on a man?s leg. Then they drove wedges into it, thus crushing the bone.

The boot, with Mitchell?s leg in it, had been set on the chest. The hangman took it down and put it on the floor. Upwards of thirty questions were asked of Mitchell in his excruciating torture. Nine times the wedges were driven in, with the same question always at every stroke, ?Anything more to say?? The reply to was always the same: ?No, my lords.? It faded in power as the torture proceeded. On the eighth stroke, the lips moved in a poignantly discernible and resolute, ?No, my lords.? And on the ninth, the Covenanter swooned away. The hangman cried out, ?He is gone, my lords! He is gone!? The judges ordered him to stop. The stately lords then got up and walked out. James Mitchell, Covenanter, had won.

He was sent back to prison. He remained there for another year in the dungeons. In January, 1677, with the shining saint, James Frasier of Bria, he was taken to the squalid prison in the Firth of Forth. Life there was hard. Sustenance sometimes was snow water or corrupted water sprinkled over with a little oatmeal to drink, and some dried fish. James Frasier had no smashed limbs. He could go at times to a garden, where herbs grew with some cherry trees. Mitchell lay in the darkness of the prison; the Lord, a light about him, preparing him for the blaze of His glory. He that had borne the image of the earthly was getting ready to bear the image of the heavenly."

I began this week with reading some of the stanzas of "A Mighty Fortress is Our God." Verse 3 says, "Though this world with devils filled should threaten to undo us, we will not fear for God hath willed His truth to triumph through us. The prince of darkness grim"?that?s Satan, of course?"we tremble not for him. His rage we can endure; for lo, his doom is sure. One little word will fell him."

Do you know that mighty fortress in your life? Are you in the midst of mortal ills, which seem to prevail all over the world? Do you feel as though God has abandoned you? Can you identify with the two Margarets in the swirling stream as they?re tied to a stake and eventually drown? Can you identify with Mitchell, whose leg was crushed again and again? Can you identify with today?s prisoners?

If there are any prisoners listening to me today, you undoubtedly will be able to identify in a way that I can?t possibly do. But you have a mighty fortress, our God. Will you trust Him?

Lisa Barry: There is so much suffering in this world. But a person doesn?t have to go overseas or back in time to find it. Even in homes across this country, suffering is endured on a daily basis. That was true for a woman named Glenda Revell. You may have heard GLENDA?S STORY on this program, and it seems like an appropriate book to offer today in view of the subject matter. If you?re in a painful situation right now and would like to learn how to find the joy of Christ even in the midst of it, then by all means purchase a copy of the book. Or we also have the book available on tape. Again, it?s called GLENDA?S STORY.

For more information, call us at 1-800-759-4JOY. Or you can write to Gateway to Joy, Box 82500, Lincoln, Nebraska, 68501. You can even purchase it through our resource section on the Internet when you visit us at gatewaytojoy.org. Today?s program has been a production of Back to the Bible.

Be with us again tomorrow when Elisabeth talks about the true nature of trust. Who are you trusting in? Find out more next time on Gateway to Joy.

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